French writer Claude Simon, who in the 1950s helped pioneer an experimental "new novel" style that did away with such literary norms as plot and character development, won the 1985 Nobel Prize in Literature today.
Simon, 72, who spends most of his time growing wine grapes in the Pyrenees, has produced few major works in the last decade. He became France's 12th literature laureate since the prize began in 1901.
The Swedish Academy said in its brief citation that Simon "combines the poet's and the painter's creativeness with a deepened awareness of time in the depiction of the human condition."
'I Only Copy Reality'
Simon once said of his own work: "I am incapable of making up a story. All I write is taken directly from real life; I only copy reality."
His intricate, free-flowing style make his works difficult to read, which explains why Simon is not well-known even in France.
Lars Gyllensten, the academy's permanent secretary, said Simon was happy and planned to come to Stockholm Dec. 10 to collect his prize and $225,000.
Simon's last major work was the 1981 novel "Les Georgiques," ("The Georgics"). It describes his experiences with the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War.
Long Line of Grape Growers
Simon, born of French parents in 1913 in Tananarive, Madagascar, is descended from a long line of south France grape growers and military officers.
He began writing in 1945 with "Le Tricheur" ("The Swindler"), an existential fable that resembled "The Stranger" by another French Nobel Prize winner, Albert Camus.
He wrote the autobiographical "La Corde Raide" ("The Tight Band") in 1947, but did not become prominent until 1959 with the publication of "Le Vent" ("The Wind") and "L'herbe" ("The Grass").
Other prominent "new novelists" are Alain Robbe-Grillet, Michel Butor and Nathalie Sarraute.
Sartre Last Winner
The last French writer to win the Nobel was existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre, who declined to accept his 1964 award in keeping with his principle of not accepting awards from established academies.
Critics had speculated that Simon's chief competitors this year were French-American author Marguerite Yourcenar, 82, and several African novelists, including South Africa's Nadine Gordimer.
Simon was a favorite of the powerful 79-year-old academy member Artur Lundkvist, who has single-handedly kept British novelist Graham Greene from winning the prize for several years. In 1980, Lundkvist told a British newspaper that he simply did not like Greene's work.